Woodcock  (Scolopax rusticola)

WoodcockThe Woodcock is a game bird, which has lead to a reduction in its numbers in the past. Although it is a woodland bird the Woodcock is actually a wading bird by descent, which has adapted to life in woodland clearings, its all round vision due to high set eyes allows it to keep an eye out for predators while it forages.  It has beautifully camouflaged plumage for broadleaf woodland being a combination of browns patterned by deeper shades and black. It is a reclusive bird which takes a skilled tracker to find in deep woodland during the day but if startled into flight it has a distinctive swooping flight which made it a challenge for marksmen to shoot.  Its plumage and long thin bill make it fairly easy to identify in a woodland setting.

In Spring and Summer the male will patrol its territory with this distinctive erratic flight, this is called ‘Roding’ a far different flight pattern from when it is startled from cover. Two other interesting features of the woodcock are the male’s frog like croaking call and the female’s ability to fly her young to safety if danger threatens before they have learnt to fly. She does this by carrying them in her claws or between her legs, remarkable protective behaviour.  Woodcocks are native to the UK but migrant population from Scandinavia and Russia often visit during the UK winter, the main UK population is on the west and central areas of the UK and Ireland becoming less common in South Wales, Devon and Cornwall. Prey food is worms and insects and in coastal areas small molluscs. The female lays around 4 eggs between March and June which are also camouflaged with chestnut and grey markings on brown eggs, laid in a scrape like nest.